Many people find proofreading to be a drag. And while you can do it yourself, and maybe should, another person, who isn’t as familiar as you are with the text, will spot errors that you miss over and over again.
What You Should Be Looking For
Following are just some ideas of what errors you should be alert for while proofreading:
- missing words
- repetitious or overused words or short phrases
- misused words
- missing or incorrect punctuation
- missing opening or closing quotation mark
- missing second dash or comma of a pair
- inconsistencies in capitalization or hyphenation
- overuse of dashes or ellipses
- extra character spaces between words
- incomplete sentences
- missing or wrong chapter numbers
- inconsistent formatting or styles (fonts, spacings, indents, margins, etc.)
- notes to yourself within the text
- excessive highlighting
- spelling of personal, business, organization, product, place names, etc.
- stated facts, statistics, dates, and the like
Some Techniques for Proofreading
Instead of looking at your text on a screen, print it. Use a different style, font, font size, or color than what you used for writing it. Print two pages per sheet of paper, like a book, instead of a single portrait page per sheet. In other words, do anything that makes the words and punctuation look different on the page from what you’ve been using all along.
Do your proofreading somewhere away from where you did the writing. That may be in a library, a different room or place in your home, at a coffee shop, in a park, etc.
Read your text word by word, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, etc. Don’t skim-read. Use something to cover up all the text but the small section you’re reading. This prevents blurring the reading.
Read your book any way but normally. Read it from the end to the beginning. Skip around your chapters, so you read them out of the usual flow.
Read slowly, even out loud. Or read in silence, with no distractions.
Remember that proofreading is the last step before printing (if you’re self-publishing) or sending your work to an agent or publisher. So, at this point, you’re looking at fine sand-papering, not reconstruction. It’s all too easy to create new errors at this stage, even if you just make small changes.
Proofreading requires skill, patience, and attention to details. This is especially important if you plan to self-publish. Proofreading can prevent embarrassment and will let you create the best possible product for your readers. So, don’t skip this vital step in your writing project.
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